The existence of multiple alternatives makes it easy for us to imagine alternatives that don’t exist-alternatives that combine the attractive features of the ones that do exist. And to the extent that we engage our imaginations in this way, we will be even less satisfied with the alternative we end up choosing. So, once again, a greater variety of choices actually makes us feel worse.

When you hear the same story everywhere you look and listen, you assume it must be true. And the more people believe it’s true, the more likely they are to repeat it, and thus the more likely you are to hear it. This is how inaccurate information can create a bandwagon effect, leading quickly to a broad, but mistaken, consensus.

The lesson here is that high expectations can be counter-productive. We probably can do more to affect the quality of our lives by controlling our expectations than we can by doing virtually anything else. The blessing of modest expectations is that they leave room for many experiences to be a pleasant surprise, a hedonic plus. The challenge is to find a way to keep expectations modest, even as actual experiences keep getting better.

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